Alcohol & Sperm Health

It’s common knowledge that mothers need to avoid alcohol before and during pregnancy. It causes significant developmental defects and low birth weight. However, anyone hardly talks about the alcohol consumption of an expectant father.

This notion may be less popular because the baby is not directly affected by alcohol levels of the father’s blood, but it does matter. Alcohol and sperm health are interlinked, and fathers should be mindful of their alcohol intake during preconception periods.

This article explains the effects of alcohol on male reproductive health and sperm parameters.

  1. How Does Alcohol Affect Sperm Health?
  2. Does Alcohol Impact Male Reproductive Tract?
  3. How Long After Quitting Drinking Will Sperm Improve?
  4. How Much Booze Is Too Much For Male Fertility?
  5. How Can You Avoid Alcoholic Changes In Sperm Health?

How Does Alcohol Affect Sperm Health?

Alcohol and sperm health has been studied extensively. The myriad of research papers provides substantial evidence for detrimental sperm parameters.

#1 It Diminishes Sperm Production

Sperm production occurs through the division of male germ cells called spermatids. These are present in your testes since birth and go through spermatogenesis to form sperm.

Increased blood alcohol levels diminish sperm production by destroying these spermatids. As a result, your sperm count decreases.

The research studies prove that the semen analysis testing shows azoospermia (no sperm in semen) in men with excess alcohol intake.

#2 It Reduces Sperm Motility

Alcohol increases the liquefaction time of semen after ejaculation. It is the time semen takes to dry up in the female reproductive tract.

You may interpret it as a good thing, but science shows that it reduces sperm motility. Those who engage in excessive alcohol drinking have slow sperm with non-progressive motility.

#3 It Damages DNA in Sperm Cells

Alcohol causes significant DNA damage in sperm cells. It produces toxic chemicals in the body, which destroy DNA structure.

Alcohol also deteriorates your vitamin B12 level, an essential constituent of the building blocks of DNA. Deficient or incapable chromatin material makes fertilization impossible or results in loss of pregnancy.

#4 It Destroys Normal Structure Of Sperm Cells

Alcohol consumption has the most prominent effect on the structure of spermatozoa. Men who drink have a remarkably higher proportion of sperm with structural abnormalities.

Scientists have observed curling of tail around the sperm cell, elongation of midpiece, or damage to the head of sperm cells. These defective cells cannot swim or achieve fertilization.

This low percentage is apparent in semen analysis of men and often becomes the most common cause of male infertility in alcoholics.

#5 It Decreases Semen Volume

Alcohol reduces the performance of accessory glands in the body. These glands do not take part in sperm production but form semen. Their malfunction diminishes semen production, and the volume of your ejaculate goes down.

They also need nutrients to secrete semen that can promote sperm health. For instance, your sperm cells need zinc for DNA protection, which is present in semen. Alcohol intake deteriorates these nutrients from the body and produces inadequately protective semen.

Does Alcohol Impact Male Reproductive Tract?

The influence of alcoholic beverages is not limited to your semen parameters only. It also extends to your reproductive tract. The ethanol in alcohol suppresses your immune system and makes you prone to infections.

If your alcohol consumption is higher, you can get urethritis, which is an infection of the urethra. It may even increase the severity of sexually transmitted diseases. These infections are capable of impairing sperm formation and transport to the vagina. Similarly, prostatitis affects the prostate gland and lessens the production of semen.

Apart from these, alcohol tends to throw off the hormonal balance of the body. It decreases your testosterone levels. Since testosterone is responsible for sperm health and production, it sets a stage for male infertility.

How Long After Quitting Drinking Will Sperm Improve?

The good news is that alcohol and sperm health have a reversible relationship. If you stop drinking, your sperm health improves with time. According to research, it takes roughly three months for your sperm production to regain normality after quitting.

Alcoholics who have a remarkably long history of alcohol intake, liver damage happens. In this case, male fertility becomes a lot more complicated. Your body has many other issues to deal with; so, it may be harder to regain fertility levels.

How Much Booze Is Too Much For Male Fertility?

There is a grey area regarding the quantity of alcohol you can consume. Not everyone who drinks alcohol faces male infertility.

Alcoholic beverages have a variable concentration of alcohol in them. Beer has only 3-5% of liquor, while whiskey or vodka contains up to 40% alcohol. This difference in percentage makes it challenging to be mindful of alcohol consumption.

Moderate intake is generally safe, but binge-drinking and prolonged alcohol intake daily can be detrimental. Some data suggest that moderate intake for a short duration may even raise your testosterone levels.

However, even with moderate drinking, your sperm count takes a hit. It may not make you infertile but lessens your potential in comparison. Heavy drinking changes testes more noticeably. For instance, heavy drinkers may experience shrinkage of testes and infertility.

So, the take-home points are:

  • Even if you are a moderate drinker, your sperm count may be lower than those who do not consume alcohol.
  • Avoid daily consumption of alcohol and have some alcohol-free days per week.
  • Do not indulge in binge-drinking.
  • Do not consume more than three units of alcohol per day. One pint (586ml) of beer with 3% alcohol concentration has roughly three units. Spirits, in contrast, have a higher concentration of alcohol.
  • Never allow your alcohol consumption to exceed 14 units per week.
  • Always consult your medical practitioner about alcohol consumption because it also depends on factors other than reproductive health.
  • Take a semen analysis test occasionally to check if your fertility levels reflect any changes.
  • If, at any point, you experience low sperm parameters, practice abstinence from alcohol
  • Try to have a complete alcohol-free lifestyle, especially when you are trying to conceive

How Can You Avoid Alcoholic Changes In Sperm Health?

Abstinence is the key to better sperm health. However, you can also control your fertility with regular semen analysis testing.

To prevent DNA damage and its consequent infertility, you can choose to preserve your sperm. It is an excellent way to protect your fertility from damage by alcohol. Sperm freezing ensures that your sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm concentration stay intact.

  1. Jensen, Tina Kold et al. “Alcohol and male reproductive health: a cross-sectional study of 8344 healthy men from Europe and the USA.” Human reproduction (Oxford, England) vol. 29,8 (2014): 1801-9.
  2. Ricci, E et al. “Alcohol intake and semen variables: cross-sectional analysis of a prospective cohort study of men referring to an Italian Fertility Clinic.” Andrology vol. 6,5 (2018): 690-696.
  3. Ricci, Elena et al. “Semen quality and alcohol intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Reproductive biomedicine online vol. 34,1 (2017): 38-47.
  4. La Vignera, Sandro et al. “Does alcohol have any effect on male reproductive function? A review of literature.” Asian journal of andrology vol. 15,2 (2013): 221-5.
  5. Van Heertum, Kristin, and Brooke Rossi. “Alcohol and fertility: how much is too much?.” Fertility research and practice vol. 3 10. 10 Jul. 2017

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